We are all capable of thinking positive thoughts. Most of us do it every day with ease. But usually, those positive thoughts don’t stem from negative or troublesome situations.
This week in teacher training, we spoke at length about a part of the philosophy of yoga called pratipaksha bhavanam, which is really just an intimidating way of saying we can actively choose to replace negative reactionary thinking with its positive counterpart. Often times this practice takes a fair amount of focus, effort, and personal reflection. We all have our good and bad days with it, but each of them requires approaching situations with the intention to try.
How many times have you felt jealous of another person’s good fortune rather than genuinely happy for them? How many times have you taken your frustration about a personal circumstance out on someone else who doesn’t deserve it? How many times have you spiraled down into your own rabbit hole of negativity rather than electing to pull yourself out it?
I know my answer. A lot.
My failure to practice pratipaksha bhavanam usually comes at a time when I’m already weak. I’m tired, I’m stressed out, I’m burnt out, I’m frustrated, and I have little left to give away to others. It’s like I’m holding on to whatever positivity I have left for myself, for my reserve tank. When you feel great about yourself and your circumstances, it’s much easier to face challenging situations with a positive eye. But it’s when you’re already down that these destructive thoughts take over and further distract you from what’s really important.
Now my resilience has rebounded tremendously while in teacher training. I’m genuinely content and therefore have no need to feel jealous of others or feel angry about so many things that I can’t see straight. I’m balanced and strong right now. The real test, however, will come when I don’t get to walk into this studio every day and spend it with 21 like-minded individuals striving for the same thing. It will be when I have to take what I’ve learned and experienced back into the “real world” where this sense of safety and community falls away. This will be when I can really see if I’ve progressed in my ability to practice pratipaksha bhavanam even on my bad days.
How often do you think about your ability to approach even the toughest things with a kind disposition? Sanskrit words and yoga aside, this is a practice we could certainly stand to see more of in the world. We would all be better off for it. But it has to start somewhere…